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Engineering Materials
Slideshow: Plastic Can Protect Astronauts
7/16/2013

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The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), shown here in an artist's conception, is currently orbiting the moon, carrying an instrument that's shown plastic can help protect astronauts from cosmic radiation. That instrument, the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER), can be seen at the bottom left corner of the spacecraft.   (Source: Chris Meaney/NASA)
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), shown here in an artist's conception, is currently orbiting the moon, carrying an instrument that's shown plastic can help protect astronauts from cosmic radiation. That instrument, the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER), can be seen at the bottom left corner of the spacecraft.
(Source: Chris Meaney/NASA)

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sci-Fi solutions
Ann R. Thryft   7/16/2013 1:25:28 PM
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Cadman-LT, what did you mean about "watching every single episode of everything having to do with space on the science channel would never come in handy."? I love reading and watching anything about space. And like Warren I love reading sci-fi (and watching movies) and did so as a kid, too.

Dave Palmer
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Imitation neutrons
Dave Palmer   7/17/2013 2:05:57 PM
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Ann, in your second paragraph (and also on your second slide), I think you mean to say that the tissue-equivalent plastic has the same opacity to photons and neutrons of a wide range of energies that human tissue does -- not that it "simulates the photons and neutrons [...] found in soft body human tissues."

From what I understand, originally, the point of the experiment was just to measure how much radiation astronauts would be exposed to; that's why making the plastic similar in opacity to human tissue was important.  But since the material does a good job at blocking radiation, it (or something similar) could be used for shielding.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Imitation neutrons
Ann R. Thryft   7/17/2013 5:07:50 PM
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Dave, you're right about the point of the experiment. But the material was, in fact, invented for a different purpose as we state in the article. That description is taken from the company's website, at the link we give.

Ces2m5
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Iron
Re: Imitation neutrons
Ces2m5   7/18/2013 5:31:07 PM
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Hoprefully the intend is to use this as a skin that covers over human skin and be fully protected from the hostile zero gravity environment.

How flexible is the material going from extreme heat and extreme cold?

Will it be able to prevent the internal human organs from boiling or exceeding the skin stress limits?

This is a topic for which I have a strong interest in order for humans to move about in deep space and extremely hostile environment with high energy particles and other radiation issues.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Imitation neutrons
Ann R. Thryft   7/18/2013 7:29:18 PM
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Ces2m5, I didn't get the impression that this material is flexible or will be used as a skin covering. It could be used as part of a spaceship's or a building's outer shell to shield people from radiation. But that's not what it was designed for, and this is more a proof-of-concept experiment at this stage. Solving the radiation protection problem would definitely make it easier for humans to spend more time in space, and go farther.

Ces2m5
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Re: Imitation neutrons
Ces2m5   7/19/2013 10:39:35 AM
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Okay, I understand; this is used for preventing micro and submicro holes from being formed in the skin of current space craft designs or space stations. As a result the life expectancy of a space vessel will be prolonged bby this plastic. What is the duration of the skin's life before it starts breaking down or is it self healing?

Dave Palmer
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Re: Imitation neutrons
Dave Palmer   7/19/2013 8:05:08 PM
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@Ces2m5: The material doesn't prevent holes from forming; it absorbs cosmic rays.  It could be used as a barrier around a spacecraft to keep the astronauts inside from being harmed by dangerous radiation.

Ces2m5
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Re: Imitation neutrons
Ces2m5   7/20/2013 2:34:24 AM
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Thank you for your response. Article(s) out of physics journal had shown and described micro holes in the skin of the Apollo space craft(s) believed to be caused by high energy particles in a zero atmosphere/gravity environment. As a result it could have been one of the causes for the Appollo 13 incident. These micro holes are not present prior to a 'space shot'. The holes are small and in varying sizes that are not noticeable by the eye without assistance. The reason the holes are not formed from natural deterioration is because the holes that resulted show up under an electron microscope as spikes tha have entry and exit points that resulted in the spikes. To prevent the spikes the use of a thermal plastic creates a barrier that either slows some particles depending on the thickness of the skin, is this the assumption? Longevity in space where the environment is not friendly and at some point will cause enough damage to a vessel over time that will impact on an astronaut survivability in long distance space travel; Mars and Jupiter. The LEO of any space craft or satellite endures a lot of the high energy particles that impact on electronics and platform integrity. Neutron particles are more likely not to be impacted by the plastic due to its speed and characteristics. Whether the plastic is impacted by the neutrons is another question. Please comment on my assessment.

Ces2m5
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Iron
Re: Imitation neutrons
Ces2m5   7/20/2013 2:53:08 AM
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Cosmic rays or radiation is the emission of thermal nuclear energy made up of high energy matter that can damage/deteriorate fabricated materials used for space applications. Water in the form of ice can performe the same function as the plastic with greater longevity and can be collected from various planets or cosmic bodies. Please comment.

Debera Harward
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Silver
Re: Sci-Fi solutions
Debera Harward   7/20/2013 6:52:31 AM
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Ann, you are absolutely correct main issue  in space is cosmic rays which penetrates inside the tissues and cells of our astronauts and causes damages to  them in terms of health issues causing skin cancer being the least issue. Its great that researchers have invented plastic as a major protection against cosmic rays, plastic can act as a strong wall between cosmic rays and asttonauts. In short now are astronauts can work safely and find  new inventions on the space without keeping in mind their health issues .

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